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Lucy in the Sky review - Portman falls from orbit | reviews, news & interviews

Lucy in the Sky review - Portman falls from orbit

Lucy in the Sky review - Portman falls from orbit

Space drama struggles to answer its own questions

Failure to launch: Natalie Portman and Jon Hamm in Lucy in the Sky

Best-known for his TV series Legion and Fargo, director Noah Hawley makes the leap to the big screen with an existential space drama based on true events, starring Natalie Portman.

During the Apollo 11 space mission, Michael Collins was left in the shuttle on the far side of the moon. While sat there, he reportedly said: “I am alone now, truly alone, and absolutely isolated from any known life. I am it.” Such an awe-inspiring level of isolation in the vastness of space is an experience few humans will ever know. But what are the psychological effects of escaping terra firma, and how do you cope with coming back down to earth?  These are the questions at the heart of Hawley’s film, and the answer appears to be: you don’t. 

Elliott DiGuiseppi and Brian C. Brown have loosely based their script on the surreal story of Lisa Nowak, a NASA astronaut. She was arrested in 2007 on charges of kidnapping a female air force captain who was competing for the affections of a man Nowak was in a relationship with.Natalie Portman in Lucy in the SkyPortman plays a rough approximation of Nowak (renamed Lucy Cola), an astronaut who, after her first mission to space, is struggling with life back in the burbs. “What am I supposed to do, go to Applebee’s?” she remarks to her sweet but dull husband Drew (Dan Stevens), who works in publicity for NASA. Jonesing to get back up among the stars, Lucy sets to work, training hard for the next mission, and spicing up her life through an affair with fellow astronaut, Mark (Hamm). But when she’s declined for the next mission it all goes wrong – big time.

Portman showed us what a high calibre actor she is with Jackie, and to a lesser extent Annihilation and Vox Lux. Here she captures Cola’s existential angst, bringing more to the performance than the script necessarily provides her with. Cola is on the brink. It’s not only the demands of the job that are the problem. The fact the game is weighted against her because she’s a woman is what’s driving her crazy.

Hawley dazzles with bold visuals aesthetics, capturing Cola’s increasingly fractured hold on reality. It’s made all the richer with beautiful work from cinematographer Polly Morgan, who contrasts awe-inspiring shots of the earth from space with the drab reality of American suburbia.

However, while Hawley lays out rich existential material and arresting visuals, he falls at the final hurdle by overindulging in melodrama. Portman’s rich performance is poorly served by a character who descends into the bunny-boiler territory of “scorned woman” clichés. 

Without a doubt, Hawley is one to watch. He’s one of the most visually daring directors working at the moment. But here, the material runs away with him.


Portman’s rich performance is poorly served by a character who descends into bunny-boiler territory


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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